Many business development and salespeople mix up the concepts of branding and marketing messages. That’s pretty easy to do, especially if you work for a large company with a central communications department. In those organizations it’s sometimes more about self-congratulatory branding than selling: “We’re number one,” “We’re really big,” “We’ve got cool stuff.”
Marketing messages are better when they’re about a particular solution directed toward a particular customer set. Business capture teams working on proposals typically call these win themes. The problem with that name is that, like branding, they can become more focused on your own company than the customer and often don’t include any substance. It’s better to start this two-step process with key discriminators.
- Construct Key Discriminators
Key discriminators have value to the customer and are unique to you. If a customer doesn’t care about a feature of your solution, why should you mention it? And if you market the same features as your competition, why would your customer decide to choose you? I can remember sitting in a Gold Team review years ago and the capture manager put up a slide listing twenty key discriminators. Wow. If you have twenty, they aren’t “key.” Plus, that list was not unique. It could have been used by the competition or any product in our own inventory!
If you get stuck coming up with a key discriminator, take the viewpoint of your customer. What would make the customer’s situation better, faster or cheaper? Good key discriminators ignore all the features that are common with the competition and highlight particular features with some kind of metric or measure. If you’re really good at this, you can even take potential weaknesses and lead with them: old = “proven architecture,” small = “right-sized,” and we haven’t sold many yet = “delivery ready.”
Building on the power of three to make your messages memorable, select three key discriminators that are of value to the customer and unique to you. For example, if you have offices near the customer, deliver on time and have great customer service, you could say: “We’re a local company with fast delivery and great service.” Position these key discriminators as the centerpiece of your value propositions, elevator pitches, proposals … even tee shirts for the team. Get everyone on message. That’s the first step. The second step is to transform them into competition winners.
- Convert Key Discriminators to Ghosting Discriminators
Jeffrey Fox gives a good description of ghosting discriminators in How to Become a Rainmaker. Because customers have a tough time deciding which provider is best and it’s never good to bad-mouth the competition, you can use ghosting discriminators to separate your solution from your contemptible competitors. It’s as if a ghost is putting doubt in the customer’s mind about the other companies, not you.
To convert your key discriminators into ghosting discriminators, first take a close look at what your competition is struggling with. Do they lack local presence? Have past performance issues? Poor product support? Now add absolute identifiers (superlatives) to your key discriminators to increase the perception of risk by not picking you: “we have the most facilities near your offices,” “are the only company to consistently deliver on time,” “and are ranked highest in customer service.”
If your key discriminators are strong, you can convert and use them as ghosting discriminators with all of your competitors. You can also pick weaker discriminators that might make good ghosting discriminators against a particular competitor. The important thing to remember is to stay focused on the customer. What’s of value to the customer in your solution? What is it about your solution that’s unique? How can you contrast the unique strength of your solution with the weakness of the competition in the mind of the customer?